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Gunman targets African migrants in Italy's Macerata

Police arrest man wearing Italian flag around his neck after he is believed have open fired on African migrants.

Macerata, Italy

A gunman has injured six African migrants in the Italian city of Macerata in a series of drive-by shootings that appear to have been racially motivated.

The shooting took place on Saturday morning in the central Italian city. Italian state police said that at least one person was in serious condition. 

A 28-year-old white Italian man, identified by police as Luca Traini, was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the shootings. A video posted on local media shows the suspect wearing an Italian flag around his neck at the time of his arrest.

Italian news agency Ansa reported Traini made a fascist salute when he was arrested.

The shootings started around 11am local time (10:00 GMT). Shots were fired at various locations in the city, including close to the train station. 

Italian police told people to take shelter indoors on Twitter.

Anti-immigrant sentiment

The shootings took place days after the dismembered body of an 18-year-old Italian woman was found in two suitcases near Macerata. A Nigerian man has been arrested in connection with the woman's death. 

Italy will vote in a general election on March 4. Observers have warned that anti-migration rhetoric in the country has been mainstreamed. 

"The expectations are now for [anti-migrant sentiments] to become a big issue," Italian journalist Lorenzo Luzi said from Ancona.

"The timing is so close [to the general elections] that it will become political sooner rather than later."

Italian media reported that Traini ran as a candidate in local elections in Corridonia last year with the far-right Lega party. 

Matteo Salvini, Lega's leader, condemned Saturday's shootings. He added that "out-of-control immigration" leads to social conflict. 

The leader of Italy's Democratic Party PD, Matteo Renzi, called for calm in a Facebook post

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that "hatred and violence will not be able to divide us".


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